Review – The Martian – Andy Weir – Sci-fi


The Martian – Andy Weir – Science Fiction/Adventure.

5 Stars


I bought this on the back of trailer for the film – which I rarely do. It looked amazing, and it was.

This can best be summed up as Robinson Crusoe in space.  In a future not too distant or improbable mankind is beginning to colonise Mars. It is still a hostile, alien world filled with danger but in the spirit of exploration and adventure that has marked humanity since the dawn of history this is merely a hindrance, not a barrier.   When one of their number is swept away, injured in a terrible storm the rest of the crew must make the difficult decision to leave a man behind – if they look for him then no one gets home.  This is not really their story.

Watney, the man who was last seen disappearing in a dust storm, badly injured and left for dead is alone, light years from home on a planet determined to kill him. Rescue is years away, if it comes, and so he must use that determination and pioneering spirit which marks out his ilk. This is HIS story.  The excitement picks up quickly and does not let up.  Watney’s dark humour and positive disposition weave a spell on the reader, one wants him to meet the challenge, to survive and to do what no one has done before.

Without wishing to give too much away the book progresses to NASA and Earth discovering his plight and he becomes the most famous man on two planets, as it were. Think of the real life coverage of the brave Apollo 13 crew – the whole world watched as they defied the odds and came home. That is the feeling here. I found myself unable to put the book down, and could imagine watching on TV as the story unfolded. I REALLY wanted Watney to survive. I really felt for his crew and his dilemma.

There is some technical language – which is mostly explained in the diaryesque way of storytelling. It certainly doesn’t overwhelm the story and brings a sense of realism. It’s science fiction with a good dose of science fact.

If I have a criticism it’s perhaps some of the minor characters are not nearly as well defined as Watney, but then again there is a big cast and this is not really their story.

Overall – Excellent, exciting, well written and engaging.

Review – High Couch of Silistra – Janet Morris – Sci-fi

So where to start? As one would expect from Janet Morris there is a lot more to this story than a simple science fiction tale. Firstly the protagonist is a woman, and a strong one at that. Estri is not your screaming maiden waiting to be rescued. She’s a feisty woman, who knows her worth, knows her skills, and her failings and above all she knows herself.

Estri is more than a woman of pleasure – for on her world this is no shameful profession. As Well Keepress she is much sought after, and highly skilled, but she is also teacher, student, lover, friend, fighter, diplomat, businesswoman, a slave, mistress and so much more.

Silistra is a world of contrasts – its people long-lived, its terrain in places inhospitable and its morals unusual. Fertility is everything in a world where the people rarely breed successfully. Duty, or Chaldra is everything – be that duty to oneself, one’s people, or the world in general.. A world misunderstood by the others, but attractive for many reasons, not least its Well Women must stand for its uniqueness and protect its beliefs. In many ways Estri is Silistra – wise, with hidden dangers, intriguing, alluring, complex and misunderstood.

Duty, power, sex, the complexities of relationships between men and women, and how they can change, fate, courage, loyalty, betrayal, personal journeys, fear, and adventure fill every chapter. The sex is not overdone, considering the context and although there is violence that too speaks of the power play which is core.

The world building, as with Morris’s other novels, is rich, complex and totally believable. For the duration of the tale Silistra is real. The characters, too, are a mix of good and bad, but no way clear cut. These are living, breathing characters with all that entails.

This is not a book for those of a faint heart or who cannot see deep within a tale for what lies therein. It’s a book to make the reader think. It’s a book of great stature, and storytelling of the finest sort. Of course it’s also a book for those who seek a heady adventure beyond the stars.

This is a book I couldn’t put down. 5 stars.

Author Interview Number Ninety-Two – Amy DuBoff – Science Fiction

Welcome to Amy DuBoff

Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in San Diego, but I moved to Vancouver, Washington when I was seven—I’d consider Vancouver my hometown. I now live in Portland, Oregon, just across the Columbia River. I love the green and mountains around here!

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write primarily in the science fiction genre. My main series is something of a science-fantasy space opera, rather than pure science fiction since it includes telekinesis and subspace travel that might not align with conventional notions of physics. I like to write grand, character-driven epics.

Where do you find inspiration? I have always seen inspiration in everything around me—from personal life experiences to the worlds crafted by others—and those things have all become a part of my own creation. After years of taking in little ideas here and there, I felt the world growing in my head was finally ready to be experienced by others. I write now to share that vision. It is the culmination of all that has inspired me throughout my life.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? Wil, the central character of my Cadicle series, is my favorite. He’s driven by duty to serve the needs of his people, but he has a deep sense of morality. I find the struggle between doing what’s necessary and doing what’s right to be an interesting thing to write about.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? There are definitely some political commentary undertones in my book series. I think that’s a key differentiator between science fiction and some other genres.

At its root, my series takes a critical look at the path of humanity and questions the balance of power.

As the series progresses, I get into some deeper issues of the true nature of power—corporate influence on politics, and how information can be controlled. Though set in a fictional scenario, these issues echo the ongoing evolution of our own world.

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…)

  • Solid plot is most important to me. Regardless of how fun a ride is with characters and the world, if the story isn’t going anywhere, I’m going to be disappointed.
  • Great characters are critical. Characters are how a reader connects with the story. Even if the plot is stellar, if the characters are boring or one-dimensional, the story is going to be lacklustre.
  • Great world-building is what immerses the reader in the world. There should be internal consistency, and the reader should be able to understand what it would be like to live in that world.
  • Technical perfection is ideal, but everyone has a different style. While the common goal is for a book to be typo-free, authors have different voices—a “technically perfect” sentence is somewhat subjective and will vary from author to author.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? My series is currently only available as an ebook from Amazon. I originally went for wide ebook distribution, but I wasn’t seeing sales on other platforms. Since going Amazon-exclusive, but I’ve been getting a steady stream of borrows, so I’m very happy I went that route! I do intend to offer a paperback version through CreateSpace in the near future.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I do most of my line-editing myself, since I work as a business writer by day and I’m used to looking at my own writing objectively. But, I always get multiple sets of other eyes, as well. I don’t think an author can really edit their own work unless a significant amount of time has passed. Even then, it’s easy to miss things. I think it’s more important to have multiple people (with good attention to detail) read it and comment, rather than it being necessary to hire a “professional.” Even professionals can miss things.

Do you read work by self-published authors? I do. I have been extremely impressed by some of it, and disheartened by others. I have read some self-published books that don’t even follow proper dialogue formatting. That’s not acceptable, and it gives all self-published authors a bad name. Readers deserve a top-notch experience, and I strive to give that as a self-published author. I welcome feedback and am always seeking to improve my craft.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? I like to thank readers for writing a review. So few write one. Though commenting on everything isn’t realistic, I especially want to show my appreciation to the fans that read a book immediately after release and take the time to write a review.

Reviews are really important for self-published authors—mostly from a marketing and visibility perspective. For example, Amazon’s search algorithms are skewed toward books with a higher number of reviews (I’ve heard 50+); also, many marketing sites have a minimum number of reviews before a book can be signed up for a promotion. So, a note to readers: if you read a book by an indie author that you really like, please write a review!

What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? Authors tend to be more critical than pure readers. I think it’s great to read the work of other authors for ongoing learning and growth, but sometimes the reviews can be overly harsh. Readers don’t always want to know about—or care about—technical flaws in the book, which an author is more likely to point out. I’d encourage authors to approach reviews from a reader’s perspective rather than pick it apart in the way one would in a writing workshop.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? A book can get into the head of a character much more than something video-based. But, more importantly, a book allows the reader to envision their own version of the book’s reality. An author can give clues, but it’s ultimately up to the reader to picture the main characters and the setting. That’s invaluable.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?

  • Never assume your book is perfect: There are always opportunities to improve. Listen to feedback, even if it seems overly critical.
  • Read: Study the pros and understand what makes a story and the way it’s written resonate with readers.
  • Collaborate with others: Having a support network is critical as you go through the writing process. Establishing a group of trusted advisors can help you grow, and those people will also be advocates if you want to pursue publishing in the future.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?

I love B-movies! I grew up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I adore the terrible made-for-TV SyFy Channel original movies. My favorite is Megapiranha.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Review IX – Andrew Weston – Sci-fi/Military/Time Travel/Historical

IX by Andrew Weston

Historical/Military/science fiction/fantasy/time travel.

5 stars.


Soldiers from varying eras and vastly different backgrounds, including the IX Legion of Rome, are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing, and transported to the far side of the galaxy. Thinking they have been granted a reprieve, their relief turns to horror when they discover they face a stark ultimatum: Fight or die.

Romans, Native Americans, fierce Celtic warriors, Special Ops, American Civil War fighters – not a huge amount in common one would think. Wrong. Death is what they expect – but not necessarily what they get – at least not where and when they think. From differing backgrounds they are thrown into a war and a world far removed from Earth. The Horde have decimated the galaxy and the Ardenese for decades and now all that remains is myth and the hidden remnants of a once mighty civilisation. The 9th intake is the last best hope for the salvation of Arden, if they can put aside their differences. Technology far beyond ours brought expansion, then it brought war.

Action takes the fore in this adventure which encompasses military, historical, science fiction and fantasy. The characters are varied, at once both complex and simplistic, and often surprising. Death stalks the pages, but his companions are loyalty, courage and dignity.  Well written with twists and turns, and a rather unexpected ending.

Great for fans of sci-fi, time travel fiction and historical.

Character Interview Number Twenty Six – Lex Fox – Sci-fi/historical

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s)

Lexington Fox – but everyone calls me Lex.


Please tell us a little about yourself.

I was a first lieutenant with 1st Platoon, 5th Company, 2nd Mounted Rifles Cavalry, under the command of Captain James Houston. Originally from Boston in Massachusetts, I enlisted on my twentieth birthday, July 3rd 1855.

I must admit, I enjoyed serving as an army officer, and the only thing that blighted my life were the circumstances leading up to my death in 1860…on earth, anyways.

Our unit was selected to complete a special mission on behalf of Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. Little did we know at the time that our commanding officer’s cousin–Governor Sam Houston of Texas–had arranged the entire thing to support his conspiracy among a number other southern state governors to form their own breakaway confederacy.

Anyway, our supposed task was to escort Princess Inuck-Shen, daughter of Chief Blooded Chin of the Blackfoot tribe, into the Bitterroot Mountain range in Kalispell, Montana. Once there, we were to hand her into the safe custody of her husband-to-be, Snow Blizzard, self-styled Chief of all Cree nations.

It was doomed to failure, for if the wedding went ahead and peace between the plains peoples was forged, it would have strengthened Lincoln’s position in the House, especially against those dissidents who didn’t like the way the war of attrition with the native American peoples was developing.

As it turns out, Snow Blizzard was in on the plot too, and together with a number of other tribes–AND Captain Houston and his ever present lapdogs–he set about hunting us down in an attempt to wipe us out. Of course, the blame would have been put squarely on those tribes sympathetic to Lincoln’s agenda.

It looks like Houston got his way, and I often wonder if our great nation ever split as he intended.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less.

A cross between Brad Pitt and Jude Law.
Would you die for those you love?

I didn’t get much choice. Although I died doing the job I loved. My father was a colonel in the 2nd Company 1st Mounted Rifles, and like him, I have a strong sense of duty. Dying for what you believe in is the greatest way you can honor those you serve with, and the great nation we strive to protect. In my case, I’ve been given a chance to do that all over again on Arden.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength lies in the fact that I have a strong sense of honor and duty. Give me a task to accomplish, and I’ll always strive to complete it to the best of my ability.
As to my weaknesses? Perhaps, it’s trusting others to have the same high standards I do. My presence here on Arden proves there are too many dishonorable backstabbers hiding behind a uniform…and that’s not right.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why

Hey, I’m only twenty-five and I’m in the saddle for most of the time. But now we’re on Arden? Who knows, there are a surprising number of women here. They’re tough. Strong. That’s because they’ve had to learn to adapt and survive. I can’t think of a better kind of person to settle down with. So we’ll see… J

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you?

Yes I can. I was nine at the time, and my own father was on leave from the army. We went to visit his brother, Uncle George, out at Fort Smith in Arkansas. While we were there, a huge group of Plains Indians came into town to trade. It was the first time I’d ever seen any of the Native American people up close, and I found them fascinating, and much friendlier than I was led to believe they’d be.
As a treat, my family went to watch them hunt horses. I saw some of their braves chase after a colt on foot. They kept running and running. It was incredible. I thought, one day, I’ll get to work with people like this and hopefully learn something of their traditions. They were so free, and in harmony with their surroundings, it made me appreciate how much we could learn from them.

Do you have any phobias?

Men without honor. I won’t have them in my company.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

I can bend my thumb back until it touches my wrist. An absolutely useless skill if ever there was one. Oh, and I can lasso a fly at twenty paces.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live.

As I’m sure some of the other guys have already said, Arden is a beautiful. It’s like earth in many respects. Vast sweeping grasslands. Mountain ranges. Forests. But the colors…how can I say this. They’re off. Just when you start to relax, this place reminds you it’s not really home, especially when some of the critters jump out to say hello. They’re not used to humans, so they’re not afraid of us.
Only last week, my patrol were taking a break and enjoying a coffee, when this woodpecker type bird swooped down, perched on the rim of my cup, gave me a “who do you think you’re staring at?” look, and then proceeded to wash himself in my beverage!
I couldn’t believe it. Even when I tried to shake him off, he just kept at it until he was good and ready. Then he jumped down, took his good time preening his feathers, and flew away without even saying thank you. That’s Arden! Shame the Horde spoil it!

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?

As you can imagine, travel is difficult because of the Horde. Thankfully, we’ve got a large supply of bullets to keep them at bay. I love riding out into the Sengennon plains. It reminds me so much of Oklahoma

Name and describe a food from your world.

This is probably getting quite boring for you, as I know you asked some of the other guys this question. But, everyone – and I mean everyone – loves the rhobexi. God, what a taste. However, I also enjoy provat. It looks very similar to our sheep, and tastes like pork mixed with beef.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)

There’s no real politics here. We’re all survivors, and most of us are from one form of military service or another. That’s spilled over into our everyday way of life. It’s strange really…there’s a disciplined aspect to the way things are done, but, everyone is entrusted with the responsibility to fulfill their respective duty. So in one regard, everything is quite relaxed. I like it. If it wasn’t for that idiot, Houston, I think everybody would be happy.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? What item would you not be able to live without?

I come from the nineteenth century. From what I’m told, I lived at a time leading up to a technological explosion on earth…but I guess I’ll never know now. Anyhow, as you can imagine, coming here is like living in a dream. We stick to our own group and methods, especially when we’re out on patrol, but once were back in Arden, wow! It’s like the best of both worlds…My particular favorites are the food dispensers that can serve multiple meals all at the same time, and the sickbay. Life in the saddle can be quite hard, and it’s a refreshing change to be able to heal the niggling injuries we pick up in a matter of minutes. Awesome in fact. J

Anyway, thanks for asking me about my life. You must come and visit once we’ve got the Horde under control. Things will be much more relaxed then and perhaps I can show you around?


Bye for now,



Author notes:


Book(s) in which this character appears plus links


The IX


Author name:

Andrew P. Weston

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.


Amazon Author Page:


Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in Our Society Guest Post – Sharon Kae Reamer

Name: Sharon Kae Reamer

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? Expatriate American now living in Cologne, Germany.

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today?  It is all-pervasive in the sense that most everyone has seen a SFF movie. But there are many people I meet who have never read a SF or fantasy book. For example, I know many people who’ve seen The Hobbit trilogy and LoTR films but have never read the books. I’ve encountered quite a few people who have told me, flat out, that they would like to read my books but that they don’t like fantasy. I don’t try to argue with them. To each his/her own.

Why do you think this is?  It suggests that genre literature, in particular, speculative fiction, is still not seen to be something ‘worthy’ as literature. Maybe in some sense it is still perceived as ‘pulp’ fiction or escapist literature. It is escapist literature, but I view ALL literature as escapist. Maybe because fantasy and SF are not perceived to have social relevance to the problems we face in today’s world (or even historically). But I think that’s a huge mistake in perception, at least from my point of view. If done right, the speculative genre can be a fantastic mirror to aspects of our culture on this planet.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be? Yes, probably, but as stated above, mainly in the media of film and television rather than books. Although in YA, I think anything is possible these days. It seems to be the playground where speculative fiction is most highly tolerated.

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life? A hero is someone who has been forced to abandon his or her ‘normal’ life for a greater purpose, be it saving someone they love, a quest to retrieve a magical or scientific artefact for the force of good, or to battle against a negative force to save the world/universe, just to name a couple examples. There are many definitions of what heroism is or does. It can also be a small thing, like being faithful and waiting for someone to return even if there is no hope of it (Ulysses’ wife Penelope comes to mind here).

Ideally, I don’t see a lot of difference between real life and literature heroes, except that real life heroes do not have to deal with magical or science fictional type situations. Doctors Without Borders is a ‘hero’ in real life because they save people. Superheroes in fiction save people but on a much more extravagant scale. But DWB are superheroes to me in real life. J

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books? My heroine from The Schattenreich series, Caitlin Schwarzbach, will risk anything to save those she loves. To me, that is heroism. It’s a quiet kind of heroism. She doesn’t want to put herself in danger, but she does because she can’t stand the thought of anything bad happening to those she loves.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? There are two famous quotes I think summarize the differences in how things work in fantasy and science fiction:

“Science fiction is something that could happen – but you usually wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen – though you often only wish that it could.” Arthur C. Clarke, 2000

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” Rod Serling, 1962

In both SF and F, plausibility is a hugely important factor. Otherwise, we cannot take the reader with us. He/she will be left standing in the wizard’s laboratory/launch pad while we go merrily off alone (cackling madly and collecting cats) into the worlds we have built. As a reader, I have to believe that whatever is going on on the page is plausible, be it giant space worms or man-eating unicorns or intelligent slime mold. These things may or may not exist (i.e., they are not ‘facts’ in any sense in the world we live in at present), but if they are presented to be an integral and logical part of the world the author has built, in other words, plausible, then I will accept their existence in that world as ‘fact’ .

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? I came of age in relation to science fiction and fantasy reading in the early eighties. Many of those writers are ones that I still think of fondly. Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, William Gibson, Lewis Carroll, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams. Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I could go on for a long time. I don’t know if all their works would still hold up now if I read them again. But it doesn’t matter. They were influential in making me a reader of speculative fiction, and so remain very influential.

In relation to films, I’d guess T.O.S.S. that my parents let me watch (my younger brother was not allowed to watch it when the series first came out). I was riveted from the very first episode of Star Trek, and still love the concept. I instantly fell in love with the original Star Wars trilogy as well as the first three Indiana Jones films and simply could not wait for the sequels to come out. It was excruciating. There was also 2001, and a slew of others since then. There were also those weird fantasy/horror films, many or most of them black and white films, I remember from my childhood that influenced me a great deal (most of which I saw on television): The 5000 Fingers of Doctor T, The Haunting, all those monster movies, most of which I watched with my Dad – The Werewolf was probably the scariest to me – and Invaders From Mars, any Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode, The Wizard of Oz, Godzilla and Mothra – these were all influential to me growing up. My Dad still enjoys trying to get me to watch films that will scare the crap out of me when I visit him. I’m usually a willing participant, but I sometimes regret it afterwards when I’m trying to get to sleep. The first film I ever saw in the movies was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Kirk Douglas and James Mason which my grandfather took me to see. It made a huge impression on me.

Nowadays, the fantastical or science fictional movie has loads of special effects and is presented so realistically that if I were a kid growing up today, I’d be hooked on SFF all over again.

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold? My Schattenreich series contains Celto-Germanic deities. Some of the deities portrayed and characterized are purely Celtic. Some have crossover status (i.e., they exist in both the Celtic and Germanic pantheons). My interpretations of these fantastical persons, as such, are vital to the identity and worldviews of the characters in my series. Because the religions I portray do not exist any longer in the modern world in their original form, I don’t really know how important they are to our identity. But because there are a large number of neopagan or modern pagan religions that use some of these divinities in their practice, I believe they have relevance to who we are, even if it is just in recognizing the god/goddess within us. Most of us who have some sort of northern European ancestry can probably relate to the fantastical portrayal of the Celtic and Germanic pantheon. This has continued from early historical times (i.e., during the late Iron Age) right up until the present. I don’t believe in any fantastical creatures, although I think they are important as they give us the means to learn something about ourselves and have formed the basis for our modern culture. In other parts of the world, ancient religions populated with one or more deities are still important to the identity of the cultures. And much of this representation is based on myths, even for the major religions (even those with only a monotheistic pantheon) of the modern world.

So I would say the answer to the second question is: yes, totally.

Here’s some links: (website) (redirects to


The books in The Schattenreich series (published) are Primary Fault, Shaky Ground, Double Couple, and Shadow Zone. Forthcoming in summer, 2015: Triple Junction (final book)

Primary Fault has been honoured with a Indy B.R.A.G. medallion and Indie Book of the Day.




Author Interview Number Eighty-Three – Sharon Kae Reamer – Spec Fic

Welcome to Sharon Kae Reamer

Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in Philadelphia, PA and am now an expat American living in Cologne, Germany.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I’m a speculative fiction writer, writing in both the fantasy and science fiction subgenres. I’ve dabbled a little with writing horror short stories and plan on doing a historical mystery in the near future. My first fantasy series, The Schattenreich, is a cross-genre work combining science and fantasy with suspense and a strong love story. It’s a curious mix of seismology, Celtic mythology, and German aristocracy.

It started out as a standalone with a sequel and then grew to five books. So the whole thing wasn’t planned. I’m not sure I’d do a series that way again, but then again, it made for a much more organic process than if I’d planned each book and the whole series. I’m a pantser, so it’s easier for me to write that way.

Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere. Seriously. A man’s face. A TV documentary. A small wooden cat was the inspiration for my current series. Odd phrases that run through my head. Looking out the window or lying in bed on my day off and just letting my thoughts wander – I do that a lot. I believe the technical term is goofing off. I prefer the term daydreaming.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I like most all of my characters. At times, I will think more about a certain character than another, mainly when I’m writing certain parts of the story that heavily feature that character. I even like my bad guys. It was fun keeping them evil but also giving them motivations and background.

Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Yes, but I’m not going to tell you why or who. It would be unfair to that character. And it would hurt their feelings.

Are your characters based on real people? Not directly. There are people who serve as models for my characters, either visually or the way they talk or walk. Sometimes it’s not a conscious thing. I just get a vision of a character and I don’t know where it comes from.

Some characters are an amalgam of people I’ve met or observed. I have a couple of cameos in the series featuring real people (with changed names), but not without their permission. There are a few characters that aren’t reality-based, like the Celtic and Germanic deities and some of the other supernatural creatures.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? Yes, which is why I was so evasive above.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources?  love research and have done a whole bunch of it for The Schattenreich series. I knew relatively little about Celtic and Germanic mythology when I started out, really nothing about druids or the history of the Celts. I read a bunch of books to educate myself, books about the Celts, about their mythology, about whether or not the druids really existed, about the demise of the Celtic culture.

I recently tackled the Germanic mythology and history, including the rune language. I’ve done a fair amount of reading on modern Paganism and a bit on the history of witchcraft and Satanism.

I do some reading on the Internet, but my favourite resource so far has been books. Luckily, I love to read non-fiction including history and mythology, so it was a labor of love.

For the science fiction novel I’m writing now, I have read a lot about quantum physics, string theory, extreme biology and the evolution of plate tectonics on our planet. I am a geophysicist in real life, so the last two subjects were also fun to research and gave me an excuse to buy a few books that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to justify.

Since I live in a non-English-speaking country, I have to buy most of my reference materials. I do read some German reference books, but it’s much easier for me to read in English if I can.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? I don’t write to theme, but themes do sometimes emerge during writing. I just try to tell a story. I don’t mind reading books with a message, but if it’s heavy-handed or if the story is just there to illustrate a certain political stance, then I’m usually not keen on it.

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) Your order is pretty good. I’d probably put solid plot ahead of world-building in some cases, but it depends on the genre and the type of story – is it a fast-paced thriller or a deeply complex world with lots of interacting characters? Each has different demands. But great characters are always at the top of my list as a reader and therefore, that’s my first consideration as a writer. Figure out who the characters are, what their motivations are, and write the story around them.

I don’t believe technical perfection is something I ever worry about when I read. I doubt I will ever be able to achieve technical perfection in my own writing. I just try to write the best book I know how to with my current skills. That’s all any writer can do, really.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? My Schattenreich series books are available in print and ebook formats and in a variety of places. I’m not exclusive to any one vendor. I would like to do audio books now that I’ve finished the last book in the series, but currently the Audible/ACX option is only available to U.S. residents. I’m researching other audio options.

I plan on releasing a few short stories in the near future, and will do ebook format exclusively on those at first. If I get some requests for print, then I’ll consider it.

I’d love to have my books translated into German, but it’s financially beyond my reach at present.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I have all my writing professionally edited. My very wonderful editor, John Kenny, is as much The Schattenreich series as I am. He’s helped me shape the series, and I can’t imagine having gotten this far without him. I hope he will continue to edit my books in the future. I feel like I won the lottery finding him right away. I’ve learned so much from having him edit my books. It’s money well spent.

I do a lot of self-editing as well both before and after sending my manuscripts to my editor. There are different types of editing for different phases of writing, and I’m still learning how and when to use them.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes.

Because self-published works are not considered to have been ‘curated’ for the most part. It’s true. But many readers don’t seem to mind that.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes. I don’t really pay attention to publishers any more. I look at the cover, at the subject matter, at the description. If it’s something I think I will like, and the price is right, I’ll try it. I read on a Paperwhite as well as in print (but increasingly more ebooks all the time) and find that many trad-pubbed ebooks are too expensive for my budget. I read a lot (my Goodreads goal is 100 books this year – I probably won’t make it, but I wanted to try). Generally, I’ll take a chance on any author for under 5 bucks. I will not pay more than 10 bucks for an ebook unless it is a non-fiction book that I can’t do without.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Good question. I think reviews are important but perhaps not in a direct monetary sense. I do not comment on them. I once contacted a reviewer because they made a statement about one of my books that was factually wrong, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. If I know the reviewer, then I might say something to them personally about my choices, but never criticizing their review and my policy is to not make comments as a public statement. The only comment I allow myself to make to any reviewer, in public, is ‘thank you’.

But I would be lying if I said a bad review doesn’t bother me. I do try to take it for what it’s worth and then just move on.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? Yes. But I don’t always take them seriously.

What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? It’s okay. We do it. It’s not always optimal. I review books on GR – mostly from authors I don’t know and less often from authors I do know. If someone I know asks me to review their book, if it’s a genre I read a lot in, I will usually say yes. I mostly use GR as a reader and so I think that reviewing books there is a thing I can do as a reader without having to feel bad about it. As a rule, I don’t review on Amazon any more.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? Books are better for getting inside a character’s head, for expressing complicated emotions, for allowing the reader to absorb content at their own pace. Movies are watched usually all at once. In a video game, the pace can be controlled to a certain extent, but books are better.

Movies and video games are also visually oriented. So if a writer is doing his or her job, they can provide the reader with a complete sensory perception of a world, and this is especially important in the speculative genres. You can get that to a certain extent with movies and video games, but books are waaaaaay better. I much prefer to read sex scenes rather than watch them (with certain exceptions). I can control what I visualize and how I visualize it.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?

  1. Write as much as you can.
  2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  3. Don’t give up.

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I just recently finished The Martian, by Andy Weir. I did enjoy it, which surprised me. It was our book club selection for February (four women who read SFF – yes it definitely counts as a book club) and probably is not something I would have picked up otherwise.

Do you have a favourite movie? Impossible to name just one!!

The Raiders of the Lost Ark is at or near the top of the list.

The Hunt for Red October

Gone with the Wind

Star Wars – IV-VI

Groundhog Day

Music and Lyrics

Any Cary Grant movie, even the bad ones – I’ll watch them anytime.

Do you have any pets? My European shorthair, Ramses, 17 years old

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I’m easily startled. Earthworms and grubs used to terrify me. But I’ve learned to get over that. I scream like a girl on roller coasters and in the movies when a scary part comes and in traffic when my husband is driving and I get spooked by another car making a sudden move. Makes him angry. I don’t blame him.

Book links, website/blog and author links:


Books 1-4 of The Schattenreich:

Primary Fault

Shaky Ground

Double Couple

Shadow Zone




New Release and Interview – The IX by Andrew P. Weston – Fantasy/Military/Historical

The IX…

Janet Morris and Perseid Press invite you to read dangerously…

Warriors from the past, present, and future fight to save us all… The IX by Andrew P, Weston.

Available now for pre-order; Kindle ships 26 January. Luxury trade edition from Perseid Press available mid February. If you’re serious about dark and heroic fiction, you’ll want this book:

Like The IX on FaceBook at:

Come and meet the author today.

Welcome to Andrew Weston

Where are you from and where do you live now? Originally, I’m from Birmingham in the UK, although I now live on the idyllic Greek island of Kos in the Aegean Sea.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer, although I also love the paranormal. My latest work, The IX, (Pronounced, ninth) is a monster Sci-Fi epic involving the past, present, and future, that blends Roman Legionnaires, U.S. Cavalry, and modern-day Special Forces into a smorgasbord of kick-ass action against killer aliens on the other side of the galaxy. Here’s a short blurb:

Roman legionnaires, far from home, lost in the mists of Caledonia.

A  US cavalry company, engaged on a special mission, vital to the peace treaty proposed by Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln.

A twenty-first century Special Forces unit, desperate to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.

From vastly different backgrounds, these soldiers are united when they are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing. Thinking they may have been granted a reprieve, imagine their horror when they discover they have been transported to a failing planet on the far side of the galaxy, where they are given a simple ultimatum. Fight or die. Against all odds, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay.

How far would you be willing to go to stay alive?

The IX. Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure.

***You’ll  get to see it soon, courtesy of Perseid Press***

Where do you find inspiration? From everyday life and experience. Some ideas have come to me whilst at work, others in dreams. The inspiration for my latest book, the IX, came after a discussion with ex military colleagues at a reunion dinner a few years back. The conversation centred around what actually happened to the lost 9th Legion of Rome when they disappeared in the mists of Caladonia, circa 120 AD. Nobody knows for sure, and it seems incredible that over 5,000 men and their equipment could simply vanish in that way. I mean, it’s as if they were scooped off the face of the earth. The topic obviously stayed in the back of my mind, because some weeks later, I was watching an old sci-fi movie on TV –‘Millenium’. In that film, time-travellers from the future journey back to snatch people away from scenes of major disaster at the moment of their deaths. It got me thinking…

What if the 9th were snatched away? And…

The rest? Well, you can read about it J

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? In the IX? Yes, Captain James Houston of the 5th Cavalry Company. He’s a backstabbing swine who’d sell his own mother out to save his own skin. Characters like him allow you to play so much. There’s nothing better than getting your readers to hate someone, and then dangling them along with a carrot as the villain seems to get away with everything…Or do they?

Are your characters based on real people? Because of the complicated structure of the IX, some are, especially the Special Forces unit. I based most of the fictional team members on guys I worked with whilst in the military.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I had to do a massive amount of research for the IX. Remember, the inspiration was based on the 9th Legion of Rome. But, how were they structured? Who did what? How did they march, set up camp, and operate? What did they wear, and what weapons did they use. The Caledonian tribes of that time were vicious savages, and experts in jungle, warfare. However, where did they come from? How did they fight? How far would they travel to engage in combat, and what made them capable enough to defeat entire legions?

Many, many facets like this had to be considered, and that was before I’d even started work on U.S. Cavalry companies and the Native American tribes of the eighteenth century. (Thankfully, I had a friend to assist me with that – she’s of Cree descent, and proved to be a goldmine of information.) J

The easiest part related to the Special Forces unit. For that, I drew on firsthand military knowledge and experience.

Once that was done, I then had to make certain the futuristic/scientific tech referred to within the story had a basis in fact I called on my educational background in astronomy and physics for that. Even so, I still had to research the very latest developments, trends, and breakthroughs to ensure the ‘theoretical’ aspects had that ring of truth. Even though this is a science fiction novel, I wanted it to be believable. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you make things too farfetched and super-convenient, it turns readers off.

Despite the work involved, I really enjoy the research aspect, as it adds a depth of authority to your work that improves quality and reading enjoyment.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? Usually? Yes, I like to convey a little message…dependent upon the subject matter. I think it makes it more personal, and helps the reader place themselves within the make-believe worlds I create.

With the IX, its:
‘be true to yourself, no matter what circumstance does to you’.

See how you can spot that, as you read through the story.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes, I do self edit, BUT, that’s before I send it into the publisher. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some ‘strong’ professional editors. Each of them has a different style and personality that rings through during the formal editing stage. So, I tend to stay as ‘neutral’ as I can when I complete my own edits…to make their life easier…and then adopt the House style during the closing stages.

In answer to the second part, YES, I do feel a book suffers without professional editing. I’m an incredibly focused, self-disciplined individual. But boy do I miss things. We all do. Word blindness is the bane of all writers. You need that extra set of eyes to cut and polish the rough diamond you’ve created, and turn it into a lustrous jewel of a masterpiece. (And even then, you have to keep checking…)

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes I do, because that’s the way the publishing world is geared. Certain big-name ‘Houses’ dominate the industry, and basically, hold all the cards. And as some have no doubt seen, unless you manage to secure a contract with them, you’re not viewed as having ‘arrived’, no matter how skilled you are as a writer. That’s a shame. We’ve all seen the ocean of books filling the shelves out there. Even if you’ve written an absolute masterpiece, without the clout of a massive name behind you, it can sink into the depths and will never see the light of day.

Fortunately, there are a number of smaller, extremely competent publishers coming to the fore. Although they’re independent, they come from professional/recognized backgrounds, and draw quality writers to the fold. Times are changing, but slowly.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? Imagination! It allows YOU to involve yourself in a make-believe world as you see fit, not the way some glitzy director from Hollywood wants you to. That being said, if any top quality sci-fi directors get to read this, and fancy a brand new project that’s bound to be a sure-fire hit, PLEASE, feel free to contact me on……… J

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Don’t give up. Work hard to improve your craft. And don’t be afraid to take risks.

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? The last book I read was “Poets in Hell”, from the “Heroes in Hell” shared world saga. A great set of stories delving into the many quirks of the Underworld. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend the entire series.

Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? Traditional, it’s a tie between – Raymond E. Feist &Julian May. Indie – Laura DeLuca.

Do you have a favourite movie? I think you have to go a long way to beat the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet. Well ahead of its time.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I hunt shadows in the dark with a specially designed net.

Book links, website/blog and author links:


Amazon Author Page:


Author Interview Sixty-Nine Massimo Marino – Sci-fi

Welcome to Massimo Marino

Please tell us a little about yourself. 

I’m Italian, and because even in Italy that means everything and nothing at all, I should say, I am Sicilian. I was born in Palermo, and as it happened with countless Sicilians, I left it, back in 1986. I lived more years abroad than in my home country, and I have changed in many and different ways than my old friends there. It is always a pleasure to go back, but it is now 6 long years since my last visit. Saudade? Maybe, a little.

I lived in Switzerland, France, and the United States. I am a scientist as a background, and have spent over 17 years in fundamental research. Most of my writing are then academic stuff, and I always wonder at how much Google is able to find about everyone. I am sure one has to Google oneself so not to forget too much about oneself… I use Google a lot to do research for my books.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. 

I’m writing a visionary, speculative sci-fi trilogy, “The Daimones Trilogy”. The first volume, “Daimones” is available both as paperback and ebook. The second volume, “Once Humans”, is in the last editing phases and should be hit the virtual and real shelves in a few weeks.

Daimones is part true life experience and uses real facts with an added “what if” to provide an explanation to current and past events. It developed into a post-apocalyptic novel with an ongoing mystery and suspense till the end, where all “dots connect”, especially with Dan’s past—the main character—and which leaves the reader, as one reviewer put it, “with lots to ponder”. It spurred by finding on the net an amazingly long series of inexplicable death of animals, where nothing can be pointed at as cause for the events and still most of those events share common aspects. Intriguing…what if…

Where can readers find your book? 

Almost everywhere because of the extended distribution of Smashwords from their Premium Catalogue. So Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Foyles, Smashwords, and many many others.

Direct links for Amazon and Smashwords are:

How long have you been writing and what, if anything, made you choose the genre in which you write?

 I wrote for many years, though it was academic stuff. Since my teen years I have written novelettes and short stories that ended up in a drawer every time and then lost and destroyed. It was a solo pleaure, very few have ever read those. Then, an unexpected turn in my life made for me to join a beta-reader community and the feedback has been phenomenal.

Sci-fi was a big hit at home when I was a kid. Had both father and older brother deep into that genre. I couldn’t avoid it.

Who or what are your inspirations/influences? 

I grew up reading sci-fi, all the big names, from Isaac Asimov to Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, to name just a few and then other genres too, Tolkien, Stephen King, Tom Clancy and others. Italian authors, too, like Svevo, Calvino, Sciascia, and also Greek mythology authors, the ones I used to hate at school and that are instead fantastic writers and authors. We live with myths daily, even if we do not realize it.

Can you name a positive experience from your writing and a negative one? It is the same experience for both; sometimes you cannot control what your characters do and say. I followed lessons on creative writing from Brandon Sanderson at BYU online, and in one of those he described the two extremes of writing styles. One goes through pre-organizing everything, the entire plot, from the beginning to the end, the various conflicts, each chapter, everything. And then fills up the gaps, more and more till the manuscript is “completed”. At the opposite sit those writer called “gardeners”. These ones plant the seed of the story, and then the story grows, evolves, take unexpected turns, with the writer sometimes unable to tell how it will end, or what will happen if certain events were to occur.

I found myself more into this last tail of the “writers distribution curve”. I’ve watched Daimones in my mind, heard characters discussing, and reacting to what happened to them as in a movie. Sometimes I was unable to write as fast as the images flow I witnessed and I had to ask them to rewind and let me watch again.

The story and the characters had a life of their own, and I became the first reader of the novel.

With the rise of e-books do you still publish in print as well? Is this medium important and why?

I will always bring novels to print. Longer books need to be in print too. Besides, bookstores are not yet equipped to carry ebooks and it is always nice to see one owns work on the shelves. For example, I’ve recently done a Reading in a bookstore in Geneva. That would have not happened if the book was not in print as well.

Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? 

At times I listen to music, piano concertos. I love Rachmaninov ones.

Books are important, why is this the case? What can a book provide that say a video game cannot? 

A good story doesn’t show everything to readers. It brings them in, makes them use their own experience and path of live to imagine and recreate the vision the writer had in the first place. That vision is different for every reader. A book is always an active process, readers’ mind and imagination have important roles. A video game is passive compared to a book. Everything is there, and in order to enjoy better the experience the player has to let go his own imagination because it interferes with the gaming experience or slows down actions and reactions. The more hypnotized a player is, and absorbing passively everything the better he can be at the game.

With a book the opposite happens, the more the reader contributes to the reading, the more enjoyable the story becomes and grows into the reader.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? 

I believe I can become a writer.


Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 11.52.03Daimones Postcard Front

“Once Humans” Vol.2 of the “Daimones Trilogy”


The dogs had been slaughtered. Not a quick death either…no pity or mercy for their suffering. They did not waste a bullet for our companions; a large machete-like blade had slashed through their bodies. The guts of the male left a trace as he tried to drag himself away from the killing rage. A barbaric act, and probably a message for us. I looked at Laura with a muted question.

“I wanted you to see the place as we found it,” Laura said. “I left the two guys here, as a precaution, but instructed them not to touch anything.”

Laura gestured to our escort and the group scattered around the perimeter.

The barn was open and many animals were missing. Those still there—and their entrails—covered the floor. The walls were splattered, giving the impression concrete bled, too. A stench of gas and death assailed me.



The “Daimones Trilogy”

2012 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner in Science Fiction

2013 Hall of Fame – Best in Science Fiction, Quality Reads UK Book Club

2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner in Science Fiction Series

2014 Finalist – Science Fiction – Indie Excellence Awards L.A.

2014 Award Winner – Science Fiction Honorable Mention – Readers’ Favorite Annual Awards



Wyrd Worlds II – An anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Last year I was delighted to be asked to participate in the Smashwords Authors group anthology Wyrd Worlds, a collection of speculative fiction from some of the new talent, and established talent on the Good Reads site. We had such fun putting together the free anthology decided to do it again! Thanks to Steph for her support and hard work and to Ross for the cover art.

This year a few more authors got involved and the talent ranges from Steph Bennion, who once again organised and edited the book, to Victoria Zigler author of children’s fantasy.  There is quite a mix of stories, mine include ‘The Joy of Socks’ part of the Kitchen Imps tales. It may well explain where socks go in the washing machine. The other is ‘Free Will’, a tale of the musings of a god as he watches the small blue-green world he cares for. There is something for everyone in this anthology, young and old.

This ebook contains a bumper 19 short stories from 17 independent authors from around the world, encompassing a wide range of science fiction and fantasy. Here lurks tales of the future, steampunk and time travel; of magical realms and fantastical deeds; and of things so weird they defy categorisation. The original WYRD WORLDS rode upon a new wave of indie collaborations; and now we’re back! In this anthology you will find:

HORIZON – KIRA: PART 2 by Ross Harrison – It was just her and a boy, alone. Kira had to concentrate on keeping him alive.

THE VISITOR by Neil Shooter – Time is relative. On an ordinary blustery British night an extraordinary visitor comes.

A WORLD TAKEN OVER by Douglas Schwartz – He had conquered the world. How much more effort was it going to be to unconquer it?

THE JOY OF SOCKS by A.L. Butcher – The imps knew what they wanted from the Bringer of Offerings…

THE COLONIAL PLAGUE by L.L. Watkin – It’s been years since Missra was executed and now her soul is shut away, but being the most powerful magical healer of her generation gets her out of the box occasionally…

HUMANITY WAS DELICIOUS by Ubiquitous Bubba – Imagine you were the werewolf who ate the last human. What will you eat now? More importantly, how are you going to get off this alien ship?

MY LAST DAY by Zach Tyo – Disaster awaits the Earth, yet an unexpected gift brings joy.

GUISARME by Barbara G. Tarn – Members of the Assassins’ Guild can be as honorable as anyone. They might be trained to kill, but they’re just people with loved ones to protect and avenge.

ROCK OF AGES by Steph Bennion – Letters from the past were hidden for a reason. But breaking into the secure facility was child’s play compared to an unexpected family reunion…

THE DINER by Michael Puttonen – Sometimes a life lived hasn’t been lived at all.

HOMELESS by Neil Shooter – Winter didn’t end, but his world has. Is he completely alone? In a world gone cold, what can keep the spark of life shining?

GY by Peter Lean – The Book was the knowledge that could open the door, but the worlds had been separated for a reason…

IRREVOCABLE by L.J. Hick – He did not accept finality. All he knew was that he had to change the impossible.

POISONED GROUND by Laurel A. Rockefeller – Lady Abbess Cara of house Ten-Ar must find the cause of a mysterious plague of illnesses before it is too late for the city of Nan-li…

SASHA AND THE COLLARED GIRL by Stan Morris – The man was willing to trade his prized possession, but she was already lost.

QUEST FOR THE PURPLE PUMPKIN by Victoria Zigler – A glittering surprise in the woods leads Polly to another world, where just being human is punishable by death…

FREE WILL by A.L. Butcher – The other Grand Wizards thought Leonardos eccentric, indulging the little World Marble like a favoured child…

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE by Clark Graham – A tabloid journalist discovers his outlandish stories just might be true.

CHANGING EVERYTHING by Josh Karaczewski – Two men set out into one of America’s roughest neighborhoods as one piece of a grand plan to change everything…

For now it is only available on Smashwords – Free – but will shortly appear on Amazon and all the Smashwords premium stores. (Smashwords Link) (Website for Wyrd Worlds II)

Wyrd Worlds II